How does The Fay School celebrate its 30th Anniversary during a pandemic? The first step was to resume In-person Learning as promised and on time.
We first heard the term “innovation muscle” when we met Tim Fish, Chief Innovation Officer of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), during the summer of 2019. As part of Fay’s annual Leadership Team Retreat, we attended the NAIS School Leadership Team Experience (SLTE), where we learned to drill “to the core of what makes successful school leadership work in a changing educational landscape.” By attending SLTE, Fay began to understand how prototyping exercises can help school leadership teams effectively innovate in what Fay already knew was an increasingly fluid and dynamic K-12 educational landscape.
When the pandemic hit, Fay deployed the first iteration of our Online Learning platform, and it was well received, because we knew how to prototype quickly. We were the talk of Houston:
“I just wanted to share something with you. I have many friends whose children go to many of the other schools in Houston. They are literally shocked when I share with them how engaged my daughter has been every day. And they are jealous and mad at their schools for not providing them enough tools or work to keep their child ahead of the game.” -Current Fay Parent
The first iteration of our Online Learning platform was a massive win for a nimble and future-focused early childhood and elementary school where the outdoor-oriented campus sits tucked away on the banks of the bayou just upstream of Buffalo Bayou Park. When we hit June, and most schools took a well-deserved break, Fay kept seeking ways to leverage its innovative DNA along with its shaded campus as we faced an uncertain and high-stakes future.
We expected that COVID-19 would likely force Fay and its students to toggle between in-person and online learning, at unpredictable times, during the upcoming 2020-20201 school year. We positively framed the likely unpredictability as an opportunity for our teachers to prototype and pilot increasingly innovative ways to advance Fay’s Online Learning program. June Term, an innovation in and of itself, allowed for even more opportunities to keep improving. And, we offered it at no cost to our Fay Families!
Between the end of June Term and Opening Day, the school’s COVID-19 Task Force and the Health and Wellness Sub Committee collaborated tirelessly, openly, and creatively. Leveraging our collective emotional intelligence, a hallmark of Fay’s educational programming, accelerated our output. We furiously prototyped new iterations for nearly every school procedure and every school protocol so that we could open safely and in strict accordance with CDC guidelines. As early as mid-July, we had answers to a plethora of anticipated Frequently Asked Questions, like “How will the school handle a positive test?”
On August 19th, while honoring our Guiding Principles and through our Return To Learn Plan, we opened as promised and on time. These video clips demonstrate just some of our campus innovations and reimagined policies and procedures. They are a direct reflection of what we learned from the innovation frameworks that SLTE provided last August and our heightened emotional intelligence. Notably, each of our school buildings now safely serves as their own bubbles, and each grade level serves as its own cohort.
At Fay, we do everything we can to look into the future so that we may live out our vision, to deliberately build and educate the future leaders of our world, no matter what peak we might need to summit next…
For the time being, though, we will happily and proudly flex our “innovation muscle” as we prototype even more authentic methods of leadership development through emotional intelligence so that The Fay School pushes past being the finest early childhood and elementary school in the city of Houston and becomes a national leader in that regard.
About Morgan B. Scoville: Morgan serves as Fay’s third Head of School and prioritizes coupling research-based data with creative teamwork to create innovative solutions that will more than overcome future challenges. He was recently selected to serve on the 2021 NAIS Annual Conference Think Tank and continuously seeks out professional development opportunities that will equip Fay educators with the resources to successfully navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of education.